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Calif. Medical Board Finally Moves to Revoke Conrad Murray's License After Michael Jackson Death

Calif. Medical Board Finally Moves to Revoke Conrad Murray's License After Michael Jackson Death

micchael jackson, conrad murray, william heisel, reporting on healthThe Medical Board of California has filed a petition to revoke Dr. Conrad Murray's medical license, nearly three years after Michael Jackson died after taking anesthesia drugs prescribed and administered by Murray.

Jackson died on June 25, 2009. Since that time, Murray has been charged, tried, convicted of involuntary manslaughter, and sentenced to four years in prison. At any point, the medical board could have filed an accusation against Jackson and started the process of revoking his license.

In June 2010 – one year after Jackson's death – Antidote wrote that the board had dropped the ball by waiting so long to revoke Murray's license and by failing to seek an interim suspension order:

In Murray's case, the board could make a compelling claim that it exhausted its remedies in the criminal court before resorting to civil court. If a doctor using anesthesia simply to help a patient sleep isn't dangerous, I'm not sure what is.

In January 2011, state prosecutors finally persuaded a Superior Court judge to take action where the medical board had failed. The judge suspended Murray's license to practice medicine and ordered that the state notify all other states where Murray was licensed about the suspension. Yet the medical board still sat on the sidelines and did not file a petition to revoke Murray's license.

Other states have been slow to act, too, even by state medical board standards. The Nevada Board of Medical Examiners showed the world a new standard for cluelessness when it filed charges against Murray in March 2010 – not for anything related to Jackson's death but instead because Murray "twice failed to disclose to the Board that he was out of compliance with his court ordered child support obligation." Being a deadbeat dad trumped failing to call 911 when a patient died under his care. And yet, the Nevada board was saved from complete infamy by at least having the good sense to allow Murray's license to expire in June 2011.

Hawaii did the same thing, essentially. The state's Department of Commerce & Consumer Affairs let Murray's license expire in January 2010. Murray had been licensed there since 2001.

The Texas Medical Board waited until after Murray was sentenced in criminal court to suspend his license in February 2012. This is a step below the more serious action of forcing Murray to permanently surrender his license. By contrast, Dr. Rolando Arafiles had to permanently surrender his license in November 2011, the same month Murray was convicted of manslaughter in Jackson's death. Arafiles did not kill any patients. His main infraction was lying to the board and intimidating witnesses against him.

And that brings us back to California. On February 22, the board finally filed a petition to revoke Murray's license. There are only two causes for action: conviction of a crime and failure to maintain adequate records. The main details of Jackson's death are included, but the accusation reads more like a formality than anything else. In a 10-page document, the board spends five pages just going over the applicable state code sections. The actual crimes perpetrated by Murray barely amount to four pages. They do include this nice summation, though:

Respondent's acts and omissions in treating patient M.J. were so grossly negligent that they rose to the level of criminal homicide. Respondent administered a lethal combination and amount of drugs to patient M.J. He failed to continuously monitor the patient's vital signs, appropriately maintain his airway, or ensure the presence of life saving equipment at the bedside. There was no continuous oxygen delivery system or cardiac monitoring in place. Respondent did not continuously monitor the pulse oximetry and blood pressure of patient M.J. No continuous intravenous access line was established for the patient. There was no crash cart, appropriate emergency resuscitation drugs, defibrillator, or medical personnel present in the patient's room, other than Respondent.

Any one of those failures would be good reason to take action against a physician's license. Nearly all of them were known within days of Jackson's death. After many different journalistic investigations and legislative inquiries, the board has learned how to act more quickly in recent years. It's simply astonishing that it has taken this long to take action in a case where the facts are so clear.

I've asked the medical board for comment. I'll let you know what I hear.

Related Posts:

Conrad Murray's Mistakes: Why does Michael Jackson's doctor face criminal charges when others don't?

Conrad Murray's Mistakes 2: Lack of training fueled criminal case in Michael Jackson death

Conrad Murray's Mistakes 3: Using a hospital-only drug in Michael Jackson' bedroom

Conrad Murray's Mistakes, Part 4: When Michael Jackson collapsed, story spun out of doc's control

Conrad Murray's Mistakes, Part 5: Isolated from his peers, Michael Jackson's doctor had no cover

Conrad Murray's Mistakes, Part 6: Bad choices in Michael Jackson's death led to rare homicide finding

Wrong doctor or wrong patient? Michael Jackson's physician has some explaining to do

To see Michael Jackson doctor's alleged slipup, look at the label

Court records show Jackson's doctor acting more like a dealer

Doctors Behaving Badly: Michael Jackson's doctor can add "deadbeat dad" to his resume

Q&A with Dr. John Dombrowski: Michael Jackson's bungled pain management may have killed him

Q&A with Dr. John Dombrowski, Part 2: Anesthetizing Michael Jackson "indefensible"

Making Hepatitis History: Michael Jackson's deadly drug strikes again

Q&A with Dr. Doris K. Cope: Michael Jackson was just a symptom of a pain medicine problem

Photo credit: Luis Fernando Reis via Flickr

Comments

When Dr. Murray was first in court the Judge ordered restrictions on his ability to practice at the urging of the Medical Board of California. When the charges were upgraded to manslaughter, the Judge ruled that he was not to practice medicine at any level. Prosecutor and investigators were working together to see that healthcare consumer were protected as is the mission of the Medical Board of California. The Judges rulings in effect were the same as what the Medical Board was recommending. Upon conviction and incarceration Dr. Murrays license was subject to immediate suspension under the law. In effect the judge at the urging of the Medical Board of California was able to swiftly order Dr. Murray to "cease and desist' practicing medicine. The allowed Medical Board investigators the ability to avoid redirecting resources away from other cases in order to accomplish the same thing. Since the mission of the Medical Board to protect health care consumers was acheived, the Board was able to allocate staff to this case without taking staff away from other cases that were equally or more important.

I would surely like to know the difference between suspension and revocation in the parlance of all these Medical Boards. TX still lists Murray's license as SUSPENDED-ACTIVE. It seems those words leave the door open to the suspension being lifted. Through this entire process, all Medical Boards have been slow, in the public perception, to act, given the gravity of the crime and subsequent conviction and incarceration. This was an opportunity for ALL medical boards to demonstrate proactively. Murray lied from the day Michael died until the day Murray was incarcerated and still claims no wrongdoing while indicating he will appeal his conviction. Is the door open to lifting his suspension? The public certainly hopes not.

The process of revocation is much like a trial. The suspension prohibits a physician from practicing medicine while due process is served. A formal accusation is made, the physician has the right to respond or surrender his license if he wants. It can take six months or up to a year for the entire due process to run its course. In order to revoke a license the medical boards not only have to level an accusation of wrong doing, but actually prove it. At the same time the physician has counsel that is trying to prove that the Medical Board findings were unjust, tainted or flat out wrong. In the end it would be up to a judge to decide if the Medical Board proved its case and can revoke the license to practice. In this civilized world, we operate under the rules of law and that means the Medical Board has the burden of proof.

   First of all, the Medical Board of California has, as part of its mission, the obligation to “protect health care consumers”.  When Dr. Murray appeared for arraignment in court on February 8,2010 the Honorable Judge Keith Schwartz heard a motion and recommendation from our agency urging restrictions be placed on Dr. Murrays practice of medicine.  Judge Schwartz heard the motion and arguments and made the following ruling as written in court  documents and available on our website www.mbc.ca.gov

    The court makes the following medical practice restrictions:  The defendant (Dr. Conrad Murray)may not us any anesthetic agent, specifically propofol, no prescribe it, and do not administer any other heavy sedative medications that should generally be administered by any anesthesiologist. The defendant may not sedate people personally. This order is to cover the state of California, Texas , Nevada, Hawaii and anywhere else the defendant may be currently licensed in the United States.

At this point, and I remind you at our recommendation to the court, the public was being protected as Dr. Murray pursued his right to due process and investigators pursued evidence for the case against Dr. Murray.

On January 11, 2011 after numerous hearings and denial of a motion to dismiss, the court determined there was enough evidence to pursue increased charges against Dr. Murray. The court then ordered his bail increased to $300,000 and on top of the standing order prohibiting him from administering anesthetics, issued the following additional restrictions.

      Dr. Murray is to immediately cease and desist from practicing medicine in the state of California.  His privilege and right to practice medicine in this state no is suspended by this court. 

The judge also gave Dr. Murray and his counsel 24 hours to notify the Medical Board of California of the ruling and 48 hours to provide proof of notification to the court. The notification was made via a 20 page fax from Dr. Murray’s counsel to the Medical Board of California.   Again health care consumers were protected as the investigation and case progressed.  The Medical Board’s investigation also continued and it was learned that the Nevada State Board of Medical Examiners had issued a Reprimand because Dr. Murray was in arrears on court order child support.  This was a violation of California Business and Professions’ Code sections 141(a),2234 and 2305.  Bearing in mind that Dr. Murray was under court order to “cease and desist” from the practice of medicine, this was an additional mark against Dr. Murray as the Medical Board of California continued to amass documentation for future actions against Dr. Murray and his license to practice medicine.

On November 7, 2011 Dr. Murray was found guilty of one count of involuntary manslaughter in the homicide of patient MJ  At the time of the guilty verdict, Dr Murray was remanded into custody and bail revoked.  On November 29, 2011 he was sentenced to the maximum term, allowable under the law, of four years in the Los Angeles county jail. This triggered an automatic suspension of his California license to practice medicine upon his incarceration.

At all times from arrest to conviction and sentencing, Dr Murray’s right to practice medicine was either restricted or suspended and health care consumers were being protected.  Had the court not agreed to our recommendations for restriction and suspension, the Medical Board of California would have swiftly pursued such restrictions on its own.  Since the court did rule in favor of the motion to restrict as we recommended, the Medical Board of California was able pursue its case against Dr. Murray without need for additional resources and personnel that would have jeopardized other investigations and cases the Medical Board was invested in.  This allowed maximum protection of health care consumers as our mission states.  Speeding up the revocation case against Dr. Murray would have accomplished nothing more than the court orders Dr. Murray was already under and in fact may have endangered consumers by redirecting resources away from other cases. 

I remind you that the Medical Board of California maximum discipline for a physician or surgeon is the revocation of his or her license.  Since this was effectively done by the court a rush to accomplish the same result would not have been in the best interest of health care consumer of which we are charged with protecting. 

I trust this clears up the matter of why it has taken the amount of time to file an accusation to revoke Dr. Murray’s license to practice medicine in the state of California.  To put it in simple terms, once a door is closed and locked no matter who closed and locked it, to rush to repeat the action is redundant.  Basically our action now is the equivalent of placing a sign on the door saying “This door is now closed and locked officially”.

Dan Wood, Public Affairs Officer, Medical Board of California

 

Because the court was taking action did not prevent the Medical Board from doing its job to outright Revoke Murray's license. It would have sent a clear message that the Medical Board wants to fully exercise its consumer protection mission.

The Medical Board of California does not revoke licenses as a form of punishment.  It revokes licenses after a full investigation and giving the physician his or her rights to due process and then if the facts of the case warrent it.  The Board can suspend a license while this process progresses.  In the Dr. Murray case his license was suspended by the court at the request of the Medical Board.  Had he not been in court the Board would have sought the same action through the legal process we are required to follow. 

Charges were never "upgraded" to manslaughter. February 8, 2010, Conrad Murray was charged with involuntary manslaughter and that charge unfortunately was never upgraded to 2nd degree murder. It wasn't until January 2011, 1.5 years after his death and almost a year since charged with INVOLUNTARY MANSLAUGHTER, was his license "suspended" And to this day, the public has not seen any formal paperwork requesting his license be REVOKED. All we hear is talk but no proof.

California Medical Board website states "LICENSE SUSPENDED". WHEN will it say License REVOKED?

Found the order from February 22, 2012. http://www2.mbc.ca.gov/LicenseLookupSystem/PhysicianSurgeon/document.aspx?path=%5cDIDOCS%5c20120222%5cDMRAAADE3%5c&did=AAADE120222222640390.DID&licenseType=G&licenseNumber=71169

About ruddy time is all I'll say!!!

It about time! Finally!

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